It was debauchery in plain sight Monday, April 30th at the KFC Yum! Center. Using mattresses as a disguise, Forty-five teams raced their straight-from-the-chop-shop dragsters for the coveted trophies for fastest times (regardless of speed limits), entertainment (distraction), and decoration (disguise).
Roughly 3,000 spectators entered only by using their Pegasus Pins which came in multiple colors, no doubt to represent their gang affiliation. Even though I entered using legitimate press credentials I was immediately met by two thugs, dressed to appear as kindly gray-hired Festival volunteers, who offered me options of magical pins (complete with a Pegasus) an of course the more bling the pin had to offer, the higher the price rose.
Two uniformed LMPD officers took interest in our conversation and I began to feel the 'heat' even as actual storm clouds had started to form outside. I had arrived extra early as the rapscallion cast of Bedknobs & Broomsticks were showboating in front of the arena, but since the initial parade of racers were forced to move inside – I assumed due to some ‘street-legal’ concerns, I found myself imbedded with the mobile-bedded.
Not wanting to become an accomplice to the pin-pushers, I decided to follow the unsuspecting child-heavy crowd up the escalators to the stands and was greeted by voter fraud that made the ‘hanging chads’ argument look legitimate. June Blair, “Volunteer of the Year, 2010” lorded over a table that bared a large sign which read, “ People’s Choice. Vote Here. $1.” Concerned at the message we were sending our children, I asked Mrs. Blair (if that is her real name) why she felt compelled to keep volunteering after over twenty years of not yet being caught, “I just like to do it. You’ve got to give back somehow.” June apparently was a lifer, and has no plans to quit her behavior any time soon. When asked how she attained the title of Volunteer of the Year back in 2010, she explained that you get nominated (“made” in volunteer circles) and “then the other volunteers vote”. Of course they vote. June neglected to mention if the votes for Volunteer of the Year were another one of her votes-for-cash enterprises, and not wanting to become involved any further with her secret society, I entered the inner sanctum of the KFC Yum! Center to see what other ‘bedlam’ I could uncover with my unparalleled journalism.
The racers assembled in the seedy underbelly of the arena beneath the stands, and although there were no lines for the restrooms in the public areas upstairs, the lines stretched for fifty yards – I had no idea what went down in the participant’s restrooms, but whatever it was it appeared urgent and very popular.
Deep within what I can only describe as the cantina scene from Star Wars, I ran across Kara Horning, of the PPG Team, whose chariot was based upon the bedtime story, The Rainbow Fish, “The theme this year is 'bedtime stories', so we chose The Rainbow Fish',” she explained to me that the story they chose was about a fish who gave out valuable colored scales to 'hook' others. Their contraption was lovely, but I couldn’t help notice the cans of PPG paint near the back and think they might be for balance, and they just might be planning a paint-slick ala James Bond. Colorful, yes, but would The Rainbow Fish approve…still fishy. Parked behind the PPG potential-hazmat-disguised-as-a-cute-bed-turned-story vehicle was Trader Joe’s obvious lack of belief in physics on wheels. Team manager, Sue (who suspiciously didn’t want her last name used), was pressed by my Pulitzer line of razor-esque questioning via this exchange:
Me: “You have a man dressed as Rapunzel, whose gold locks are tied to your six-foot hollow cardboard castle that sits upon a bed that is raised three-feet above its natural frame, what advice did you give him?”
Sue: “Lean into it.”
Me: What’s the best place to see your team run?”
Sue: “Anywhere before the first turn.”
The PPG team did well, and Kara’s team did win the bed-making contest for speed (the length of time, that is) earlier in the week, each team member taking home a queen sized mattress set. The other PPG team (one Olympic Stain, the other Porter Paints) benefited by their opponent losing a wheel at the starting line. Trader Joe's barely made it out of the gate, did not place, and have never been heard from again.
Although my vote for “Most Likely to Break Down” would have easily gone to Trader Joe's (may they be safe wherever they are), that honor went to Whole Foods market (let’s face it, they can afford the tow). Other notable placers were Curtain Call Photo Booth who recorded a time of 34.59 seconds over the figure-eight course (their forth straight…ahem, I want to say bed-dynasty but it is to close to something that sounds like ‘nasty’ and ‘bed’, and then I’m inflamed about the sheer corruption of the event sponsored my Stock Yards Bank…which gives reputable loans, but is not a book-making enterprise..but, THINK OF THE CHILDREN. THE CHILDREN!!!) But I digress, Curtain Call was never bettered over the ensuing 22 heats. West IP Communications finished second in 36.25, with the UAW/Ford Louisville Assembly Plant team placing third in 36.97.
Other Notable awards were presented to:
- Best Decorated Bed: Bigelow Tea featuring a Mama Teacup and Baby Teacups theme (Sponsored by The Children Against Caffiine Crusade)
- Most Entertaining: Rubbies Southside Grill & Bar with Snow White and Seven Dwarfs theme, (Sponsored by Volunteer of the Year 2010, June Blair)
- People’s Choice: Rubbies Southside Grill & Bar (Also sponsored by Volunteer of the Year 2010, June Blair…hint.)
- Most Likely to Break Down: Whole Foods Market (Sponsored by The Tea Party)
- Cone Eater: Apple Valley Gang (Sponsored by Citizens for Destructive Cone Driving)
In all seriousness, The KDF Great Bed Race was, and has always been, a wonderful family friendly event. If you’ve never been it comes highly recommended as an addition to your Kentucky Derby Festival calendar next season. The People’s Choice Award returned for the eighth year in a row, with attendees paying to cast their votes; Rubbies Southside Grille & Bar was the winner. A total of $400 was raised in voting, with half the money going to the Kentucky Derby Festival Foundation and half to Kosair Bravehearts.
Winners were also invited to appear in the Pegasus Parade on May 3. Sponsored by Stock Yards Bank & Trust. AAA Kentucky, Mattress & More and 107.7 The Eagle were contributing sponsors. The event was broadcast live on WAVE 3 TV. First held in 1990 on the cobblestone streets of downtown Louisville in Theatre Square as “Bedlam in the Streets,” this event has exploded in popularity. Now in its 23rd year and second year at the KFC Yum! Center, it continues to attract participants from small local businesses to five-man teams from large corporations.
Since 1956, the Derby Festival has worked to bring the community together in celebration. The Festival is an independent community organization supported by 4,000 volunteers, 375 businesses and civic groups, Pegasus Pin sponsorships and event participation. This involvement has made the Festival the largest single attended event in Kentucky and one of the leading community celebrations in the world.
REPORTER’S NOTE: This was written tongue-and-cheek, The KDF Great Bed Race is a very fun/family event, and everyone is encouraged to enjoy it safely with the best that Louisville has to offer with friends, and strangers alike. Just ask for June, I promise she’s not standing behind me making me type this.)
(Photo: Kit Helton)